Washington County authorities are asking that residents dispose of unwanted medications through an anonymous drive-up drop in Stillwater on Sept. 29.

"Prescription drug abuse in the U.S. is increasing, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs," the Sheriff's Office said recently. "Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet."

Improperly disposing of the unused medicines, such as flushing them or throwing them away, can pose safety and health hazards, Sheriff Bill Hutton has said.

Deputies hope to fill barrels with those drugs for destruction. Opiate pills often are a gateway drug for new heroin addicts.

The collection of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Washington County Government Center, 14949 62nd St. N., Stillwater.

Officials also are increasing the number of boxes for collecting unwanted prescription drugs, with new ones planned for county service centers in Forest Lake and Cottage Grove, in addition to one now in place at the Sheriff's Office in Stillwater.

With eight people dead of heroin or methadone overdoses since early 2011 in the county, authorities are probing possible homicide charges in connection with three of those deaths and looking for ways to prevent future deaths.

Area drug investigations are targeting anyone who distributes opiate pills and heroin, the Sheriff's Office has said.

Joy Powell • 651-925-5038